Cordish acquires 100% control of Philly stadium casino project
The Maryland operator is buying out the shares of a Parx Casino affiliate to take sole control of the star-crossed South Philly stadium casino.
A Maryland casino operator and partner in a long-delayed South Philadelphia casino project announced Wednesday that it is taking complete ownership of the project developer, Stadium Casino LLC.
Cordish Cos. of Baltimore said it would buy out the interest of the owner of Parx Casino in Bensalem. The companies share ownership of Stadium, which plans to build the Philly Live! Hotel & Casino on the site of a former Holiday Inn at 900 Packer Ave.
Stadium also has the right to open a mini-casino in Westmoreland County, Pa. Cordish said it would take over that project, too.
The announcement comes after rumors in industry trade journals that the partners had a rift and were seeking a buyer for their Pennsylvania gaming licenses.
"We at Cordish are excited to now immediately get to work on constructing and opening two first-class casinos for Pennsylvania, which will create thousands of new, quality jobs for local residents, and hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes for the commonwealth," Joe Weinberg, managing member of Stadium Casino Baltimore Investors LLC, said in a statement.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Stadium Casino LLC is licensed to operate the Packer Avenue casino and recently asked the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to approve a three-year extension on its deadline to launch operations, to December 2021.
Stadium also asked regulators to approve a "corporate restructuring" involving the partnership between Cordish and a subsidiary of Greenwood Gaming, which owns Parx. The nature of the restructuring was not spelled out in a heavily redacted public version of the company's filing.
Industry insiders said the partnership was a marriage of companies with different corporate cultures. Cordish specializes in non-gaming amenities, and Greenwood's roots are in horse racing and casino operations.
"It's been rocky from the start of the partnership, so it's not a surprise that it has come to this," said Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business Magazine.
Cordish opened the Maryland Live! casino near Baltimore in 2012 and launched a hotel at the site a few months ago. Greenwood, in addition to Parx, plans to open a satellite sports-betting operation at its South Philadelphia Turf Club at 700 Packer Ave., across Darien Street from the Stadium Casino site.
The Stadium partnership formally closed the $37 million purchase of the former Holiday Inn in January, and demolished part of the hotel complex this summer. But demolition crews packed up more than a month ago, and the partially gutted 240-room hotel tower remains standing.
When Cordish and the Parx owners announced their partnership in 2012, they said they planned to open a casino with slot machines and table games. The casino also would feature fitness and spa facilities, a pool, six restaurants, a live music venue, a rooftop party deck, and a parking garage with about 2,500 spaces, all within a few blocks of Philadelphia's stadium complex.
The gaming board's staff has recommended that the board grant only a two-year extension, until Dec. 12, 2020, as "more than adequate" to get the 1,500 licensed slot machines operating and generating tax revenue.
This is the latest delay in a star-crossed effort to get a second casino project running in Philadelphia.
That gaming board first awarded licenses in December 2006 to SugarHouse, which opened in 2010, and Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia. Foxwood lost its license in 2010 after it failed to get financing.
A new competition resulted with the 2014 award of a license to Stadium. But the casino's launch was delayed by legal challenges by its competitors, including SugarHouse, in Fishtown. SugarHouse dropped its objections a year ago.
Despite the delays, Stadium appears to be setting the foundation to operate a substantial gaming presence in Pennsylvania.
The company in 2017 paid the state $50 million for a 1,500-slot-machine license at the Packer Avenue site, and in July paid a $24.5 million fee for table games. The payments enabled it to bid for interactive gaming licenses.
Stadium also paid $40.1 million to obtain the mini-casino license in Westmoreland County.